Mountain Day

Russ awoke early and took a hike in the woods and then came home and made me his best breakfast of avocado toast and slow cooked eggs. It was a lovely way to begin the vacation day.

We are staying in a small cabin off a long dirt road on the side of a mountain at the edge of a huge National Forest. It could not be more peaceful and relaxing. After we all had breakfast we set off on a trek to find the tubing spot we were going to on the New River. The water in the river is low which made our two mile float take over two hours.

Two hours floating down a river is the ultimate unhooking from the outside world. The only thing we encountered was a father and his three year old son tubing and a couple of kayakers who paddled past us at a clip we could only imagine.

Russ named the most exciting part of the float a short stint of “rapids” as a .5 on the five point scale. We could have done the whole loop a second time but since we did not bring any food with us we decided that lunch was in order.

Russ and Carter had seen a sign that Carter misread as Nachos, so that is what they got in their tastebud brains we should have. Nachos meant another run back to the grocery store on our way home from rafting.

Carter volunteered to do the cooking so Russ and I sat on the porch and enjoyed the beautiful day. It was four thirty by the time lunch was served, but it was an instagram worthy sight to behold. Cat naps after lunch and we have fully evolved into vacation mode. I am enjoying everyone else cooking.

Tonight a fire in the fire pit outside and a night under the stars.

Russ Gets A Vacation

Apparently I have taken a bunch of vacations in the last year and a half and Russ has not. This life of all work had to stop and Carter made it happen. She too has been on quite a few vacations and is good at planning them so she convinced Russ to take a few days off and go to the mountains. I think this is Carter’s way of weening herself of a dozen summers spent at Camp Cheerio.

We rented a little cabin on the edge of the Cherokee National Forest. It was an easy drive since Carter did all the driving as the expert to the mountains. There were only a few stress filled moments as I drove her crazy as the consummate back seat driver.

We stopped in Boone for lunch where I was the only person without a tattoo or homemade shoes. We had a sweet hummingbird dining beside us. I am not quite sure how pot has not been legalized in North Carolina, but when it happens Boone will lead the way.

Our little cabin is exactly what we needed. Russ immediately went out on a hike to get the lay of the land. He already found a waterfall and knows where a second one is.

After we cleaned up we went over to Blowing Rock to visit my Aunt Edie and Uncle Bill. They have been summering in Blowing Rock for eleven years and this is the first time we have come to see them. Eddie is my mother’s youngest sister and Carter has not spent any time with them.

We sat on their porch with a view of nine mountain ridges and had drinks and some nibbles while we caught up. We went into town for dinner and continued our great conversation. Carter wondered why I had kept these relatives from her all these years. I promised it had not been my plan.

Now back snuggled in our little cabin our Russ-along-vacation is off to a very good start.

Comfort and Love

Almost a day doesn’t go by that I am not thankful for Westminster. I am not a religious zealot. I am just a person trying to figure out how to live in this world and do better everyday. The one thing I know is that most everything that happens at church helps me get there and trust me none of it is perfect.

Today I had the pleasure of listening to Davis Bingham sing a solo. His gift of song brings joy to everyone who hears him. I just adore that I have such a sweet relationship with he and his wife Joan because of our church connection.

Russ has agreed to be an elder at church and his training concluded today with his examination for ordination. Thank goodness he passed. He will be a great elder and I am happy that he is offering up his precious time.

Next Sunday he will be ordained along with the four other elders and nine Deacons. Sadly I am missing his big day because I will be in Baltimore. My best college friend Suzanne lost her father earlier in the summer and I am going to the celebration of his 98 years.

If you go to Westminster look out for Russ as he starts this journey without me. Of course I will be back that night, but I wish I could be in two places at once.

Everyday hard things are happening all around us, and Westminster and the people there make it easier. I hope you have a place in your life that makes you feel comfort and love.

Schools Back in NC

Growing up in Connecticut back to school was always the day after Labor Day. I have never gotten used to back to school being in the middle of August, but here it is. Our friend Adam leaves his car at our house over the summer and today he and his Mom, Kelly, arrived to pick it up so he can move into his college apartment.

The news alerted us yesterday that UNC was moving in the past few days and Duke is coming on a Tuesday. This alert is code for, “Don’t try to go to Target, Walmart, Costco or Bed, Bath and Beyond.” Thank goodness I wasn’t going to go in a Walmart anyway.

Adam didn’t store all his stuff in our garage this year. Instead he used a storage service. Turns out that they are a little behind on deliveries because a whole lot of their workers quit. I hope he is able to locate his boxes and if need be Carter and her Land Cruiser can aid in delivering them.

As a sweet thank you for just letting Adam’s car sit in our driveway Kelly took us all out to dinner tonight. It was a wonderful chance to catch up and hear about Adam’s summer in Tanzania. College summers are so different than when I was in college. Adam’s twin Cait was in Australia, Carter was in London and Adam in Africa. Oh what I wouldn’t do to have a college summer. Of course I am not looking to go back to class, certainly not before Labor Day.

Dickinson Reflection

A young woman who is a student at Dickinson College, where I went to school, e-mailed me a few weeks ago asking to meet me for an interview. I agreed and today after I had a very poor showing at bridge I met her at Fosters. Nell, is something called a Presidential Fellow and she was assigned to interview graduates who live in North Carolina.

She was polite, on time and a good conversationalist. She asked me about my time at Dickinson. What did I think was my favorite part about the school? It was an easy question , I said, my friends. I am glad she did not ask me what classes I took sophomore year because I don’t believe I could tell you what anyone of them were, but if you wanted to know the name of every girl in my pledge class I could give you that almost without taking a breath.

I loved my time at Dickinson, but as I told her, I was more interested in clubs and activities than in academics. It worked out well for me as not one potential employer ever asked me for my transcript. They were much more interested in leadership positions I had held.

My best skillI developed in college was public speaking. I got there with a lot of experience from boarding school, but I had bigger audiences in college. To this day talking is my favorite activity. Even at bridge today a woman I was playing against who goes to my church told me she likes when I speak at church.

As Nell continued the interview she was asking me things about how I thought the college could improve. I offered two areas I thought it was lacking, real life job experience for students and for Dickinson to play a bigger role in improving the town of Carlisle.

Central Pennsylvania is not exactly a hot bed of excitement and one small liberal arts college is not likely to fix what years of poor governing has done, but Carlisle is a nice enough town that has potential, but could use a big idea or two.

Liberal arts is a tough sell in these STEM filled times. Not that Dickinson doesn’t offer great science and math that produces a good share of great doctors and researchers, or that liberal studies are not a wonderful foundation for any future, but place it in a sleepy small town and it gets to be a harder sell.

One thing that I learned from Nell is that Dickinson has just two fraternities and many sororities which is a little bit of a flip from my years there. I didn’t ask her what they do for fun. The litigious world we live in has caused all schools to crack down on what we used to do in college. Maybe we need to teach bridge and Mah Jongg at orientation so at least kids can play a game they could play the rest of their lives. If only I had learned to play bridge in college…on second thought I probably would not have graduated.

Cleaning as Avoidance

I don’t think I am a person with natural OCD tendencies. If you saw my childhood room and especially my closet you would say, “definitely NOT.” That being said, I am developing a love of cleaning things. What does this say about me. Perhaps I don’t have enough to do?

I am not obsessive. Right now I am fairly certain I know where some dust is in every room in my house and there is plenty of silver that needs polishing. Talk about a half world problem. It is just that I am taking great satisfaction in figuring out the best way to clean difficult things. I have mastered grout! Now that I have solved that world problem I needed something else to move on to.

Thankfully Carter came home and provided me with a challenge. She had bought some Allbirds, wool shoes in white and wore them all over Europe. I don’t have such fancy shoes, but I had read they could be washed in the washer. Carter removed the insoles and the laces, per the instructions and I threw them in the washer on delicate since you treat them like a sweater to clean them.

The first run through the machine with Woolite was unsatisfactory to my uber cleaning sensibilities. I then scrubbed them in the sink with more woolite. Not happy. I looked at the internet and found no better information other than “Do Not Bleach.” Ok, Ok. I tried scrubbing them with Gain. A little better but not good enough. I put them back in the washer with my Kirkland pod and added two towels to rough them up a bit during the delicate cycle.

As I count it I had washed them four times. Oh I didn’t mention that I cleaned the rubber soles with a manic eraser which was perfect. I showed them to Carter, thinking she would say they were not good enough. “Oh, these are great, thanks.”

Now they are drying and I will judge how clean they look fully dry. It shouldn’t make a difference to me if Carter is happy. I think that all this cleaning is my way of ignoring the bad news in the world. If I am researching the best mop I am not looking at the stock market or what bone headed tweet is coming out.

Am I alone in trying to control my own little world as the bigger one around me is in chaos?

Grape Public Service Announcement

I really shouldn’t tell the world this, and I have written about it in the past, but I must be unselfish and tell you about Thomcord Grapes. See Trader Joe’s and perhaps a couple of other grocers have these very special grapes for about a month. They are a cross between a Thompson Grape, which is red and seedless and a Concord grape which is purple with seeds.

A Thompson can have a slight bite to them and a concord is as sweet and grapey as you can get. Put together you have a purple seedless grape that is sweet and slightly tart and pure yumminess.

At Trader Joe’s they sell them for $2.49 for a container and like I said, the season is short. The reason I shouldn’t share this Information is they are hard to get and it means I probably won’t be able to get them every time I to the store for the next month. But what kind of friend would I be if I kept this a secret? If I kept letting you eat tart green grapes you might never know what real grapes are supposed to taste like.

If you loved purple grape juice as a kid then these are the grapes for you. Trust me they are better than candy, cookies or cake. Even better than chocolate. Now I have your attention. You can thank me later.